[Bell Historians] Lulls in bellfounding activity

Richard Johnston johnstonrh at rhj.org.uk
Tue Dec 29 12:36:19 GMT 2020

RAS, re 1688-1692:
> However I'm at a complete loss to know what the other two 
> are.  1688 is, of course, the year of the Glorious 
> Revolution, but I struggle to see why that have a pronounced 
> effect on bell founding.  

History is written by the victors, they say, and most influential 
accounts of the 1688 Revolution and its aftermath were indeed written 
by the beneficiaries of its outcome.  

Some years ago I studied in depth from primary sources someone who 
was involved in the Revolution and was close to the king, and who 
remained active in English politics until 1710, and as a result I 
gained a different set of perspectives.

The 1688 Revolution was a coup that overturned the existing polity, 
led by people who were either foreign (from the Netherlands) or 
English Puritans, and was unconstitutional by the standards of the 
time.  It was, of course, glossed to make it look legitimate.

To those who who later would be described as Tories - supporters of 
king and church ceremony (and hence the most likely people at all 
periods to be bell donors) - it was seriously unpalatable.  

True, James II had done many unconstitutional things which had 
widespread disapproval, but the revolution had uncomfortable 
resonances of Puritan rule between 1649 and 1660, which was still 
well within living menory.  Few people wanted a repeat performance, 
but it was far from impossible.

Hence to contemporary minds in 1688 the longer term outcome was 
uncertain - would there be another civil war? Would Catholic France 
invade to place Catholic James II back on the throne?   

In the initial period after 1688, supporters of the revolution were 
in the ascendancy within king William's government, but he was wise 
enough to recognise he needed cross-party support, and his cabinet 
(though use of that term is an anachronism) soon became broad-based 
(against the wishes of his supporters) and by 1692,  fears of a 
return to Puritan extremism had quietened down. Remarkably within 15 
years, largely as a result of William's polity, politics based on 
religious fanaticism (Puritanism) and quasi-religious ideologies 
(divine right of kings) had become deeply unfashionable.   

War with France did remain a problem, and there were such wars in the 
1690s, though these were in pursuit of pre-existing Continental 
conflicts with which William was associated in the Netherlands.  But 
these wars, financially costly though they were (leading to the Bank 
of England in 1694), were not about returning James to the throne.  

But the dynastic problem did not completely go away, as the failed 
rebellions of 1715 and 1745 revealed.  But by then, in England 
attitudes to politics had become pragmatic, and neither rebellion 
attracted much English support, and consequently the supporters of 
the rebellions were mainly Scottish.

In conclusion, 1688-1692 was indeed a period of sufficient political 
uncertainty to have suppressed demand for new bells.

Richard Johnston


More information about the Bell-historians mailing list